Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom

Davis Markert Nickerson

Markert, Nickerson and Davis

29th Annual Davis, Markert, and Nickerson (DMN)

Academic Freedom Lecture

“Do Adjuncts Have Academic Freedom?, or Why Tenure Matters”
Guest Speaker:  Henry F. Reichman
Henry Reichman has been Chair of the American Association of University Professors Committee A on Academic Freedom and Tenure since 2012, chairs the AAUP Foundation, and from 2012 to 2018 AAUP First Vice-President.  His book, The Future of Academic Freedom (see https://pwb02mw.press.jhu.edu/title/future-academic-freedom) was published in April by Johns Hopkins University Press.  By training a historian of Russia and the Soviet Union, he is Professor Emeritus of History at California State University, East Bay, where he taught for 25 years.  At CSUEB he won awards as Outstanding Professor and for faculty service and served three terms as chair of the academic senate, on the executive committee of the CSU system academic senate, and for nine years on his faculty union bargaining team.  From 1982 to 2015 he edited the American Library Association’s bimonthly Newsletter on Intellectual Freedom.  His other publications include Railwaymen and Revolution: Russia, 1905 (University of California Press, 1987) and Censorship and Selection: Issues and Answers for Schools(American Library Association, 1988, 1993, 2001).  He co-edits and writes regularly for the AAUP’s Academe blog (academeblog.org).
“Do Adjuncts Have Academic Freedom?, or Why Tenure Matters”

The American concept of academic freedom was first fully articulated in 1915 by the founders of the AAUP in the context of the expanding economic and social inequality of corporate power associated with the Gilded Age.  Conditions today are eerily similar.  In 1915, only a handful of prominent full professors at elite institutions held an appointment carrying indefinite tenure, which the AAUP’s founders considered the strongest defense of academic freedom.  But today, even if most colleges and universities provide tenure protections, they provide them for an ever-shrinking segment of the faculty.  At present, only about a quarter of those who teach in higher education are included in the tenure system, a much smaller percentage than a few decades ago.  If tenure provides the most reliable protection for academic freedom, then academic freedom today may be as endangered as it has been at almost any moment since the AAUP’s inception.

Hence, despite growing external threats from online harassers, external funders, and meddling governing boards and legislators, the foremost challenge to academic freedom today is the search for ways to protect it in a world where a growing majority of teachers are employed in what are essentially “at will” positions.  There is a rightful place in the academy for some temporary part-time appointments, but compelling allegedly “adjunct” faculty to cobble together the semblance of a career from a series of part-time jobs is not only an unconscionable abuse of those colleagues—it is an ominous threat to the academic freedom of all faculty members.  There is no more critical task in the defense of academic freedom today than a renewed fight to make the overwhelming majority of faculty appointments once again full-time and probationary for tenure.


30th Annual Davis, Markert, and Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture

Tuesday, October 27, 2020


University of Michigan Senate Assembly Resolution Adopted November 19, 1990:

The faculty of the University of Michigan affirms that academic and intellectual freedom are fundamental values for a university in a free society. They form the foundation of the rights of free inquiry, free expression and free dissent that are necessary for the life of the university. The faculty recognizes that such rights are human creations, the product of both the reasoned actions and the deep-seated commitments of women and men. When such actions and commitments are set in human institutions, people may secure for themselves and for others, in the present and the future, the enjoyment of those rights.

We also recognize that these values and the rights they imply are vulnerable to the fads, fashions, social movements and mass fears that threaten to still dissent and to censure carriers of unpopular ideas. Such was the case in 1954 when the University of Michigan suspended three faculty members and subsequently dismissed two of them. We deeply regret the failure of the University community to protect the fundamental values of intellectual freedom at that time. It is to guard against a repetition of those events and to protect the fundamental freedoms of those who come after us that we make this resolution today. The protection of academic and intellectual freedoms requires a constant reminder of their value and vulnerability.

To provide for that reminder, the Faculty of the University of Michigan hereby resolves to establish an Annual Senate Lecture on Academic and on Intellectual Freedom, to be named: The University of Michigan Senate’s Davis, Markert, Nickerson Lecture on Academic and Intellectual Freedom.